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National health crucial to fully building xiaokang society

Students from Qingxin Primary School in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province perform dragon dance on Dec.28, 2020. Photo:XINHUA

In ancient Chinese culture, striving for "xiaokang" represented people's longing for a prosperous life. Around the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping put forward the strategic concept of "a moderately prosperous society." In 2002, the 16th CPC National Congress proposed the goal of building a xiaokang society in all respects. In 2012, the 18th CPC National Congress further established the vision of achieving a xiaokang society. These moves indicate that the goal is to inherit ancient Chinese people's long-cherished aspirations and realize the common wishes of the Chinese people today. Health is one of the basic conditions for a good life. 

In light of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out that "Without public health, there is no comprehensive well-being." His view reveals the close connection between public health and a comprehensive xiaokang society while emphasizing public health’s great significance for building a xiaokang society in all respects.
Internal logic
National health is a prerequisite for comprehensive xiaokang. China has attached great importance to public health protection for a long time. Especially since the reform and opening up, the healthcare cause has evolved vigorously and public health has been substantially improved, creating a health development path consistent with national conditions. Meanwhile, we are still confronting a series of health threats and hidden dangers such as major diseases, natural disasters, environmental pollution, and food and drug safety. For example, there is a relative deprivation in per capita health and health resources. Fierce market competition has shortened the time people can allocate for physical exercise, leisure, and health preservation, endangering national health. These factors indicate that only by securing public health can we genuinely achieve a xiaokang society in all respects.
A comprehensive xiaokang society is a guarantee for public health. Practices are evidence that national health issues, which are no longer isolated instances, have amounted to a comprehensive, integrated, and holistic issue affecting China's economic and social development. Therefore, we need to refresh our understanding of national health from the perspectives of our two centenary goals and the overall situation. The Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee has spoken highly of the decisive achievements made in securing a victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. It is noteworthy that xiaokang includes five facets, namely economy, politics, culture, society, and ecology. Regarding national health, economic development provides a material basis. Political stability supplies a favorable environment. Cultural prosperity acts to nurture intelligence. An orderly society allows for expectations of safety. Good ecology forms a natural barrier against harm. Therefore, the multi-dimensional xiaokang society provides a health assurance for more than 1.4 billion Chinese people.
Core health indicators
Since the founding of the PRC in 1949, China has committed to serving people wholeheartedly and prioritizing people’s health interests and rights. China’s list of achievements has attracted worldwide attention. Internationally recognized health indicators mainly include average life expectancy, and infant and maternal mortality ratios. The average life expectancy in China has jumped from 35 years in the early days of the PRC to 67.9 years in 1981, moving to 77.3 years in 2019. The infant and maternal mortality rates fell from 32.9‰ and 88.9 per 100,000 women in 1990 to 5.6‰ and 17.8 per 100,000 women in 2019. China’s core health indicators have outperformed the average level of upper-middle-income economies, reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule. In addition, China has the world's largest national health capital and social security system, which is hailed by the World Health Organization as “a role model for developing countries.”
Despite remarkable achievements, there are still some shortcomings in people's health protection and management. For example, basic medical and health services should highlight public welfare attributes. Medical resources call for optimization in terms of amount and structure. Medical systems should expand their reach and balance their allocation between cities and countryside, different regions, and various groups. Meanwhile, the public health emergency management system and epidemic prevention and control mechanisms require improvement. Also, we need to develop health-friendly production methods, lifestyles, economic and social development patterns, and governance models. Further efforts should be exerted to shift the emphasis from disease treatment to public health.
Interactive promotion
Regarding the current national situation and public health conditions, it behooves China to uphold public welfare attributes of basic medical and health causes, improve public health service capabilities and respond to emergencies and various health risks in an effective way. Meanwhile, the country needs to optimize national health promotion policies and work together to build a community of common health for mankind, fix national health flaws, and construct a healthy China where everyone contributes and benefits.
Basic medical and health services should continue to promote their public welfare attributes. All regions and departments should fully understand the important status and role of building a healthy China and expedite the expansion of high-quality medical resources and the balanced distributions among regions. In this way, people can access fair, systematic, and continuous health services such as prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation near their homes. We should set an eye firmly on major diseases and health problems, accelerate implementing the "Healthy China" initiative, and hone in on health education mechanisms. In this way, people can prevent and con major diseases from their roots, and realize a fundamental shift in the central task from disease treatment to public health.
China needs to strengthen its capability to serve public health. The first strategy involves improving laws and regulations in the field of public health and adopting scientific and legitimate regulations to prevent health risks and curb these risks from spreading. For example, China should improve wildlife protection laws, enact biosafety laws, and strengthen the legal protection of people's lives and health. Also, it should train more excellent professionals in the fields of public health, medical care, and nursing with emphasis on cultivating the top talent in preventive medicine and virology. In addition, the country can strengthen the construction of soft power regarding the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, preventing problems before they occur.
Next, focus should be put on improving the relief system for major epidemics and disasters. The first step is to clarify basic medical insurance systems so that treating emergent illnesses comes before payment. This clarification ensures that emergency patients can't be refused by hospitals due to medical expenses. The second step is to form an effective mechanism linking social assistance and basic medical insurance systems so that policies can safeguard basic living and health needs of patients with special diseases and their families. The third step is to upgrade the connection between official charitable organizations and private charitable entities to give full play to all forms of charitable organizations, ensuring that all social entities can easily access material donations during major epidemics and disasters. There also should be a strict system for managing the allocation of rescue resources.
Also, national health promotion policies should move forward. Governments need to excel in improving the health of youth. Sitting for too long and not exercising sufficiently are two of the important factors that hurt personal health. School load pressures, long-term use of computers and mobile devices, and obesity add to some teenagers' reluctance to participate in sports and compress their time for outdoor activities. In rural areas, the absence of parents due to migrant work trends (often children are raised by their grandparents) has aggravated the increase of unhealthy behaviors in youth. Control over unhealthy behavior is one of the key challenges on the road to a comprehensive xiaokang society. Also, mechanisms should require employers to improve the working environments, moderately diminish labor intensity, and strictly control overtime hours. This move will increase the "health reserve" of the young and middle-aged, and prevent senior health risks, achieving an active and healthy population aging.
Finally, China should join hands to build a community of common health for mankind. This represents the enrichment and development of the concept "a community of shared future for mankind." Today, the world is incrementally turning into a global village of shared well-being and destiny. No country can tackle health threats and challenges on its own. Working together to build a community of common health for mankind is a scientific concept, and a pragmatic action, that China has put forward with a global perspective in mind. At present, we should increase international cooperation when fulfilling international obligations and participating in global health governance, advocate for solidarity and mutual assistance, improve public health safety governance systems, maintain regional and global public health security, and provide a solid guarantee for public health and a comprehensive xiaokang society.
Li Chungen is from the School of Public Administration at Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics.
Edited by MA YUHONG

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